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A Tale of Three (Media) Cities

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Abstract

In the early years of the twenty-first century, three of the 23 Arab nations – Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – have established media cities in the hope that knowledge-based industries will push their economies forward. All three cities are the direct result of government policy and offer financial benefits to companies located in the cities. The intention is that a combination of media, business, technology, and finance will become inexorably linked and that the resulting synergy will provide thousands of jobs. As well as generating jobs and leapfrogging their economies into the twenty-first century, these cities are also meant to be shining symbols of modernity in societies that have tended to look backwards rather than forwards. This paper looks at the vision behind these cities, who owns them, the business models employed and their likelihood of success. It also considers the key issue of freedom of expression and the free flow of information in these cities, in the context of societies that traditionally have restricted the flow of information and blocked freedom of expression.

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